What It Takes to Be a Comeback City

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In this Big Ideas for Cities feature, Gary, Indiana, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson discusses how pulling together the right team, the right ideas, and the right plan has set the city up for a resurgence.

When Karen Freeman-Wilson became mayor of Gary, Indiana, she faced persistent challenges such as crime and blight — but around the time she came into office, the city lost a significant portion of its revenue as well. “So much of [today’s] discussion is framed in the context of the recession of 2008,” said Mayor Freeman-Wilson in her Big Ideas for Cities talk. “That didn’t really mean a whole lot for us. In 2006, the state of Indiana passed permanent property tax caps. And by 2012, they became a part of our constitution, meaning that residential tax-payers paid one percent, commercial two percent, and industrial tax-payers paid no more than three percent. The long and short of that is: on the day I took office, I lost 60 percent of my property tax budget.”

Gary, Ind. Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson delivers her Big Ideas talk in Miami Beach, Florida. (Jason Dixson Photography)
Gary, Ind. Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson delivers her Big Ideas talk in Miami Beach, Florida. (Jason Dixson Photography)

Do you have a big idea? Since 2014, the National League of Cities’ Big Ideas for Cities series has featured cities and businesses that are using “big ideas” to drive communities forward. The series has quickly become a popular platform for leaders to share their success stories and describe, in detail, the steps they’ve taken to make their communities better.

We are currently accepting speaker submissions. Leaders are invited to share the best practices and innovative solutions moving their cities forward. The series is filmed year-round and open to individuals from all sectors – public, private and nonprofit. Talks are filmed at NLC’s studio in our new building on North Capitol Street in Washington, D.C.

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 8.58.14 AMAbout the author: Tim Mudd is the Program Manager for Content and Social Media at the National League of Cities. Follow Tim on Twitter at @TimMudd.